• Clarissa von Spee. Photo: Howard Agriesti, Cleveland Museum of Art

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Lecture by Clarissa von Spee: Wu Hufan, Victoria Contag, and C. C. Wang—A Passion for Paintings and a Lifelong Friendship

We launch BAMPFA’s new Lijin Collection Lecture Series with a presentation by Clarissa von Spee, chair of Asian art and Donna and James Reid Curator of Chinese Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

As von Spee explains, the republican period of the twentieth century was a decisive time in the formation of modern Chinese art and marked a pivotal moment in the perception and understanding of Chinese painting and art history in the West. In her lecture, von Spee will introduce three extraordinary personalities whose paths crossed in cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 1930s: the collector-connoisseur Wu Hufan, the German scholar Victoria Contag, and the young artist and law student C. C. Wang. She will explore Wu’s role as a mentor and friend to Wang and Contag; address their participation in the making of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art in London in 1935–36; and discuss Contag and Wang’s 1940 publication of China’s first dictionary of painters’ and collectors’ seals. During her time in Shanghai, Contag assembled a classical Chinese painting collection, which was later sold in large part to Bay Area institutions; von Spee will trace these works in an attempt to reconstruct the core of the former Contag collection.

Clarissa von Spee was formerly curator of the Chinese and Central Asian collections at the British Museum. She is the author of Wu Hufan: A Twentieth Century Art Connoisseur in Shanghai, among other publications.